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  • Water and wastewater (South East Water)


    Tim Kannegieter

    Description: Over the past few years, South East Water (SEW) in Victoria have been trialling a range of different Internet of Things (IOT) technologies with the goal of creating the most advanced water and waste water network in Australia. The trials are aimed at identifying an IOT platform that will allow the connection of around one million monitoring and controlling devices across SEW’s water and wastewater network using a low power wide area network. This case study describes the activities to date.

    Source: Based on a webinar delivered on 27 Sept 2016 to the Applied IOT Engineering Community of Engineers Australia by Andrew Forster-Knight, Group Manager Intelligent Systems, South East Water

    Biography: Andrew Forster-Knight has worked in the operation technology team at SEW for 13 years. He has a double degree in chemical engineering and science from Monash University. He is a patent holder of 3 patents for sensor and telemetry technology. He is passionate about innovation and excited about the possibilities of IOT.

     

    Title: The smartest water network in Australia

    Introduction

    South East Water (SEW) is a government owned statutory authority servicing over 1.6 million connections in the South East of Melbourne. SEW’s water network run from the Melbourne CBD down to the tip of the Mornington Peninsula, and up almost to Gippsland.

    The authority has 750,000 customers, growing at approximately 20,000 customers per year. It has billions of dollars’ worth of fixed assets, like pipe works, and about 24,000km of water and wastewater. SEW operates both a drinking water network and a sewage disposal network, as well seven Class A Quality treatment plants that go along with those and some recycled water technology as well. This network includes:

    • 350 + sewage pumping stations
    • 200+ water pumping stations/ PRVs
    • 70+ water storage facilities,
    • 4000 + Pressure Sewer stations

    South East Water is different to many other water authorities because it maintains much of its expertise in-house. A key organisational driver for the organisation is around innovation, which can ultimately add value to the customer, effectively making their bills cheaper, through efficiency gains.

    A decade ago SEW operated a radio-based telemetry system but has now made the transition to a fully IP-based network, largely based on high speed cellular communications, as well as some fixed fibre as well.

    In the past only large assets, such as the really big pumping stations and water tanks, had telemetry but with the high speed backbones, SEW now has a much wider range of telemetry points including IP-based cameras, card access systems and other networks as well.

    In terms of the Internet of Things (IOT) the most significant development is the SEW is now augmenting that traditional high speed network with the low-power, low data rate sensors. Currently SEW has around 1,000 battery powered sensors and this is expected to grow to around 6 million in the next 5 to 10 years. In total, SEW collects about 100,000 points in real time back to its data centre and through to our different enterprise departments, and different analytics tools.

    Flow and rainfall ingress

    SEW’s journey began about 10 years ago when it designed a device, which by today's standard is quite primitive, which was a sewer manhole overflow detector. If there was a blockage in the sewer, it would rise up, tip a switch and the device would send an SMS which we’d capture, and process through our system.

    The thousand battery powered devices that we've got in the network now, are iterations from that initial technology, now using data connectivity over the cellular network, standards-based protocols such as DNP3, and often incorporating smarter sensors using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

    Sensor.jpg

    A MEMs-based gas sensor for detecting hydrogen sulphide in the sewer, developed in-house by SEW

    For example, rather than mechanical level devices we use ultrasonics to scan the sewer to get a flow measure which we then integrate the systems in the cloud that are connected to the Bureau of Meterology data. As soon as a rain event comes through the system, the data is automatically analysed, and we can try and pinpoint where rain is infiltrating our sewer network. Rainfall ingress is one of the major problems for sewage networks because obviously we end up treating rainwater in our treatment plants, increasing costs. “If we can fix that problem with IOT technology, it will put us a long way forward and justify the installation expenses”, Forster-Knight said.

    Network pressure

    Another IOT application includes measuring water network flow pressure. Using traditional monitoring approaches, you have to build a cabinet on the street with electricity connection, secure a footprint of land there, install traditional telemetry gear in and flow metering equipment. SEW estimated the costs at between $30,000 and $50,000 just to get a flow monitoring point.

    The onset of the battery-powered IOT technology that’s available now has allowed SEW to miniaturise that. All the equipment, including a highly powered low-flow detecting mag flow meter, with by-directional flow recording, pressure-sensing, and water quality, can now fit in a small plastic pit. That's sending data back daily, and alarms in real time. We can do this with a battery because you only wake the equipment up from deep sleep to send data on certain conditions. The price point of IOT driven technology for the same application is around $3,000 to $5,000 mark, allowing SEW to put many hundreds more of these into the network.

    The IOT approach has allowed SEW to develop virtual District Metering Areas to detect if there is any leakage in a zone of the network. Traditionally to do that, you'd have to close the entire zone down using mechanical valves and have one feed-in so that you can detect when there’s potential leakage. Having many more sensors deployed using two-way flow sensors allows SEW to create virtual zones by placing measurement devices at strategic locations. SEW can then do automated flow balance without having to compromise the integrity or operation of the network.

    SEW’s operational crews are now armed with a simple traffic light interface which highlights which zones are showing signs of leakage or pressure issues, allowing them to target their leak detection efforts. Previously leak detection crews would walk the entire network over a three period, using listening sticks, and then start again. This is improving both efficiency and accuracy, allowing SEW to find major leaks that may have gone undetected.

    Laboratory on a chip

    SEW has also explored lab-on-chip technology in the water quality space, measuring for example free chlorine residuals. This is a very expensive process to do traditionally with large scale assets required. By contrast SEW is now using low-power printed sensors from a US company at a fraction of the cost, again allowing much greater distribution of the sensors. Similar sensors are being used for odour detectors that previously cost thousands, with associated powered sites, now available for $20 to $50.

    Automated valves

    Another IOT technology SEW has embraced is a battery powered valve actuator from a small German company. SEW has hundreds of thousands of valves which are still mostly manually actuated, requiring and operator to go out with a large mechanical key. Valves can get stuck quite easily and there is traditionally no-visibility of the valve state or status (open or closed).

    Valve.jpg

    An automated valve in the town of Nar Nar Goon in the Gippsland district

    The valves have cellular communications with microprocessors intelligently controlling the valve simulating human control with the ability to open the valve fast at first or slow, as required.

    The valve is powered by a briefcase size pack of lithium batteries buried next to the actuator. Again the valve is not awake all the time, but responds to wake up call delivered via the SCADA system and the cellular modem. It also does a data session so it's really optimised for low power. So far we've been getting about two years life time out of the battery pack, and then it's just a hot swap in the field with a recharged battery pack.

    SEW has installed about 35 of these devices so far, putting them where it makes strategic sense, like for flushing purposes. Traditionally an operator would open a valve and return four hours later to close it. So this really simple task can now be fully automated on both drinking water and waste water networks.

    The network operators can now manipulate network flows, simply by clicking a button in the SCADA system, which is integrated with the sewer overflow detectors and the weather system as well. If the sewer network needs to have capacity, we can shut it down slightly.

    Forster-Knight said: “For a water or a wastewater company, the ability to control and manipulate your network in real time, from the back office is a huge step forward.”

    Pressure Sewers

    Another application that has develop is around its pressure sewer systems. Pressure sewers are effectively a replacement for the septic tank, normally found in rural areas, which can be an environmental risk if not maintained properly. With pressure sewers, every property gets a tank with a submersible pump and is connected into a much smaller version of the sewer system normally found in metropolitan areas.

    Working with local partners SEW has connected each installation via 3G cellular providing control and monitoring of each individual property. Because each property has holding capacity, this allows SEW to smooth out the peak flows and pump during lower peak periods.

    “That's got huge ramifications for downstream investment. For example, it means we can use smaller pipes. We can use smaller transfer pump stations, and ultimately at our treatment plants, we can either defer major investment in the head works, or downsize as required. That's where multi-million dollar savings have come through from an algorithm, running across thousands of machine to machine (M2M) connections,” Forster-Knight said.

    Trends.png

    The current discharge profile is a typical diurnal flow pattern in a gravity sewer network, with morning and afternoon peaks. With pressure sewer, we have algorithms that hold certain pumps off, depending on how full the tank is, and empty them later in the day.

    The pressure sewer system also provides analytical capability that SEW has never had before. For, example it is able to monitor pumps turning on and correlate it to rainfall data. If pumps turn on more frequently during rainfall it’s an indication there is a leak in a customer’s property and that’s something that we can feed back to them or it may be an indication of an illegal connection.

     

    Rainwater tank control

    Another application SEW has implemented is the manipulation rainwater tanks to prevent flooding of local creeks and stormwater systems. SEE has instrumented a series of residence households, so that they all don't discharge into the system at peak periods.

    Rainwater.png

    Forster-Knight said: “The issue is that residents like to keep their rainwater tanks full. If they are empty and you get a storm, that buffers it okay. However, if another storm comes through the next day, you get still that huge run off and the system can't handle it.

    “We thought there must be a smarter way. So we’ve put devices on every house now that measures the level of the tank. They talk to each other in real time, and also back to our central system. Once they get the prediction of the weather, they work themselves out so that they’ll each discharge their flow before the storm hits.”

    Every house is mapped for its roof size, and it’s a self-learning system.  Every time it rains, the algorithm learns what happens to its tank profile, but the end-result is a smoother discharge into the storm water system.

    This system has big benefits for suburbs that have constrained areas of storm water, where the houses are so dense that normally there's not much that can be done. Typically every time it rains, their streets flood. As part of the system, SEW developed a smartphone app for to give them visibility as to when it’s going to discharge, allowing them to do their own planning around it.

    Low Power Wide Area Networks

    Over the last 10 years, SEW’s battery powered smart devices were largely based on cellular communications. However, to move from thousands of devices to millions, Forster-Knight said SEW needs a low power wide area network. The issue is that cellular communications based devices still draw too much power compared to those operating on a LPWAN.

    A couple of years ago, South East Water went to market, for a LPWAN and got responses from around the globe. It shortlisted some technologies and did extensive trials.

    “All the technologies largely did what they said on the box, but the business models didn’t add up. The issue was that the ecosystems weren't there. We required an open system, with everything interoperable and secure. Really, we wanted the full wish list – battery mesh technology, long range systems and the like, but we would have had to compromise because at the time the technology wasn't there. So we halted the project because we knew we wouldn't reach our vision for an IoT network.” Forster-Knight said.

    “However, in the last two years, a lot has changed, and it's going to continue to change.  I think with the technologies that are emerging now, we will be able to get to the 10 to 15 years battery life that we need for our next phase of devices.”

    SEW is focusing their current investigations on NarrowBand IoT and LORAWan technology, with trials of both. Forster-Knight claimed they were among the most extensive trials in Australia and probably the world, for NB-IoT especially.

    What makes these system attractive is their subscription based approach, where the network will be there, making it plug and play. Forster-Knight said their ecosystems are already growing, and they “should be huge” in the next couple of years, providing a degree of future proofing and driving the cost down.

    NB-IoT is a licenced spectrum, so you get quality of service and a robust communications network. The LORAWan technology is currently in ISM free spectrum, but is a strong contender according to Forster-Knight.

    Trialling process

    The trialling process begins with the Telcos providing SEW with desktop RF models, based on terrain of Google Earth and others data sources. This allows predictions to be made. The next step is to conduct extent testing, with crews in the field driving and walking the streets to recalibrate those extents.

    RFMOdel.jpg

    The green area is the prediction of the extent of LPWAN coverage, which needs to be confirmed and calibrated.

    Within those areas of coverage, SEW is conducting extensive testing in the order of 50 to 100 test cases a day, covering every scenario, such as water meters, manhole sensors, fire hydrant sensors, near power stations, bodies of water, basements and even buried.

    We will be deploying between 700,000 and 800,000 devices just for our digital water meters and we have many more applications we want to do like those discussed so far. There should be over a million devices on this network.

    Our network will ultimately be an integration of our existing SCADA system with high-speed gateways on critical infrastructure integrated with the LPWAN for the non-critical stuff. Everything battery powered will migrate to the LPWAN network because the modules are going to be cheaper and the battery life is going to be longer. For any new capabilities, we will aim to leverage the same network.

    Operational management

    To manage all the data coming from the network, SEW built a network operations centre (NOC) at its new offices. This allows visualisation and control of all the devices in this case study in addition to CCTV and traditional SCADA.  

    NOC.jpg

    Engineers working in SEW’s Network Operations Centre.

    The NOC includes a six panel display for detailed data and a large screen for situational awareness. We have real time rotating networks through our sewer and water stations. All data analytics is done in this network operation centre.

    We have communications topology alerts, alarms, and health status as well as a rover system that interconnects all of the different corporate systems and will autonomously drill down as something happens in the network.

    “For example, if we have somebody open a door on an asset on the middle of the Peninsula, that will automatically drill down and it’ll tell you what vehicles are nearby, what jobs have been logged, any trends from the SCADA system,” Forster-Knight said. “It's a situational awareness tool that continually rotates throughout the day, and just gives that heads up to our operators so that nothing's ever missed.

    “As the IoT network rolls out the NOC Centre will really come into its own and the operations will really change and allow us to focus more on our core business of wastewater management.”

     

    Questions and Answers

    • All questions from webinar participants
    • All answers by Andrew Forster-Knight, Group Manager Intelligent Systems, South East Water

     

    Question: “What is the typical battery life?”

    Answer: That depends on the application. For something simple like an overflow switch that talks via exception and reports in as health check you’ll you get ten years out of the primary lithium cells. For metering devices the target life is 15 years with daily transmission and a payload of approximately 100 bytes.

    For more advanced stuff like water quality and flow measurement, we typically get between three and five years battery life and that's a battery change onsite.

    We have a couple of patents in this area. One is for a low powered MEMS based sensor where battery life is absolutely fundamental, so the entire design is built around a micro controller that can run on an ultra-low current but is powerful enough to run any algorithms needed and still do all the communication. The device is called a Blockaid which includes an ultrasonic device with MEMs based gas sensors in it and includes some advanced algorithms optimised for running on a battery powered device.

     

    Question: What other patents do you have?

    Answer: One of the other patents that I’m involved with is a product called the OneBox, which is essentially a telemetry system, but it’s only using embedded electronics and has an algorithm. Again, the algorithms running on it integrate with our cloud based systems to optimise those peak flows and smooth them out of the network. They're largely the two main ones that have been involved with, so everything from the core design through to user interfaces, and all-encompassing in the patents.

     

    Question: Is it your intention to market those products over water utilities?

    Answer: Yes. South East Water has a commercial arm called IOTA (http://www.iota.net.au/). Their mandate is to pick innovations out of South East Water, commercialise them and productize them and then take them outside of Victorian and outside of Australia which they have been doing.

    In Victoria, it's generally a shared system, so any of our innovations we will effectively give to any other Victorian Water Authority. We’re all owned by the same stakeholder being the Victorian government, but outside of that there’s a commercial offering through our partners.

     

    Question: How are you securing your system?  Are you concerned about network breaches?”

    Answer: Yes, security is in the forefront of everyone's mind here. With the networks we've got now, it's all cellular based but it’s all private network. We've got fibre into our buildings from the large Telcos so nothing goes over the public internet.

    Our protocols are encrypted where we we’re doing command and control. We've got some security from that aspect. Then there's the obviously physical security and everything else where the way we try and protect against that is for our remote assets is all about cameras, access control, and electronic keys. From there all the way through to our back end systems. We’ve got security in place.

    We’re not saying that we’ve absolutely mastered that because I'm sure we haven't, but we're pretty comfortable in what we've got. It would take a huge effort for somebody to penetrate that network, and we do periodic penetration testing. For somebody sitting outside of our network and trying to wirelessly get in would be very difficult.

     

    Question: How much data are you sending per day from a typical monitoring station?”

    Answer: For devices where we want to get the 10 to 15 years battery life, we won’t be doing any more than 100 bytes a day, so really small packets on that low power Wide Area Network.

    For our traditional SCADA systems, where telemetry data is quite small, it would probably be around two to five kilobytes a day of real time data. Because we're using them as gateways for cameras and other such devices, we get up to a couple of megabytes a day, and in some cases many megabytes depending on the activity the camera side.

    We've got over 9,500 M2M, SIM-card based connections. We use a platform called Jasper where you can optimise the profiles of all the SIM cards to share the costs across them, so whether it's a camera system, a laptop, or a telemetry device, we smooth them out. Roughly speaking we pay under $3 a month per device across that entire network.

     

    Question: Do you use edge computing concepts to minimise data transfer?

    Answer: It's not something we've done a heap of, but there’s a really big use case coming up for that it which is the disaggregation of flow data. That's done in the electricity AMI network now. They’re doing that where they can desegregate your data to say that your electricity is getting used on your washing machine, your fridge, etc by pulling it apart and doing pattern recognition. On the electricity side they've got the benefit of having everything powered, so they can get that ten second data grabs or even more frequently back through their IP backhaul.

    For us that's going to be done with battery devices. We can't send that amount of data, so we do have to do that with edge computing. For example water meters will have to process that data themselves. So they have to be super-efficient in order to do that and being able to send out summaries of that. This is a future thing. It's probably a few years away or a year, but our thinking is that the meters will do all of the processing as sufficiently as possible for a battery device, and send summaries of the disaggregation. That's definitely something in our thinking right now.

     

    Question: Is there any size limitation on the battery packs for actuated valves?”

    Answer: There's not. We get what the vendor provides at the moment, which is a briefcase size pack of regulated lithium batteries that are rechargeable. There probably isn't a limit to the size, but I think practicality it has to come into it. The bigger that battery pack, the more real estate, and the bigger the pit potential you have to dig and bury et cetera. But for our thinking getting two years out of a rechargeable battery pack, and being able to actuate a valve in real time is probably a good sweet spot for us.

    There has been some talk about building photovoltaic cells into the manhole covers, to trickle charge those batteries. We’re weighing up the investment to do that versus sending someone out for a 20 minute change over every couple of years, so it's a balancing act.

     

    Question: There has been news reports of lithium batteries blowing up in cell phones. Is there any concerns about that kind of thing happening in these battery powered devices?

    Answer: For all of the stuff we do I the sewer network we actually lithium batteries that are intrinsically safe, certified. We have to be really careful about that because the gas build up in the sewer network could be explosive potentially. We pick the batteries that are designed to get that ATEX certification and they're generally pretty safe.

     

    Question: With so many sensors in the field, how do you prevent nuisance alarms from flooding the operator with alarms and notifications?

    Answer: That's something that can really kill a project or an initiative if you are flooding and spamming them with alarms. It’s about careful control and commissioning I guess of these devices. We discuss with the operations teams the threshold and alarm limits that are agreed on.

    With that said, all our devices are generally two way communications, so that if there are thresholds causing nuisance alarms, we can quickly reconfigure them. It's not a huge issue for us because our analytics show high frequency of alarms and we can get onto them pretty quickly.

     

    Question: Do you have a ballpark cost for a valve actuator?”

    Answer: It's around probably AU$15,000 by the time you install it, with road work and an excavator. The equipment itself is probably in the order of $10,000.

    It's a small start-up building these devices and they don't have a huge scale, but we think that will come over time. We're helping them to innovate and make them smaller and cheaper, but even at that price, they probably a fifth of the cost to do it the traditional way, which is building an actual chamber, and then having power from the grid power to do all that stuff. To us it's a no brainer to get the battery one.

     

    Question: Can you please explain how you work with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in sourcing their data, and do you provide them with your data as well?

    Answer: We work pretty closely with the BOM head office here in Melbourne, as well as the other third parties weather date providers such as Weatherzone. We wrap all the data up at the integration layer in some REST APIs .

     

    Question: Who pays for the pressure sewer stations at the customer’s house, and who is responsible for maintaining   parts?

    Answer: Some people that have been on backlog scheme for many years where they get this technology available get that device for free. Others that want to connect early pay a token contribution fee and that’s largely where the growth is coming from. SEW effectively maintains and operates every single pump, on behalf of the customer, so the customer doesn't touch the device.

    For the really high value properties down, especially down the peninsula, you can’t subdivide if you've got a septic tank. But if you put a pressure sewer pump in, where you can choose the location of it, all of a sudden they can open up their land.

     

    Questions: Apart from power, what are the other advantages of LPWAN.

    Answer: With traditional cellular like 3G or 4G, anything underground you may get a signal or you may not, and so there's a lot of use of external aerials etc. When you go to low power Wide Area that’s using NarrowBand technology, so a really small slice of the spectrum. With that you get a better penetration, so for example in the case of NarrowBand IoT, it's a 20 dB gain on existing GPRS technology.

    If you can imagine wherever you get a phone signal now and where it just drops out, in the case of NarrowBand IoT it's another 20 dB further penetration than that, which typically works at about seven times the distance. If you can imagine that all of a sudden this penetration is much better than what your current cellular technology is.

    With LPWAN, we can go further to those hard to reach places, like water meters under manhole covers etc. Also there are a lot of cellular black spots right now, which under the low power wide area will line up and be available.

     

    Question: What type of algorithms are you using? Is it a genetic algorithm, or another such as the fuzzy logic control? What are using for sewer pumping stations level control?

    Answer: We do machine learning and we use the Microsoft Azure platform for a few things, but that's largely around water and network link detection. For the sewer algorithm they're probably not that advanced. They’re typically reverse engineering flow curves, and putting polynomials around that so that we can, within the realms of an RTU or a small control app, apply basic controls to adjust the pumps to where they need to be.

     

    Question: Surely having a 3G SIM on 4000 plus tanks is cost prohibitive and uncompetitive.

    Answer: You've got to weigh up what you call uncompetitive in terms of costs. Six or seven years ago the proposed approached was to sewer the entire Peninsula using traditional gravity means and it was going to cost around $500 million to do it.

    You have no guarantee that somebody is going to connect in, with massive pipes, deep trenching, property and road description. With pressure sewer that all goes away. We delivered it for about $250 million just by the change of technology and deferred major capital investment.

    Also, the benefits from the ability to monitor each house in real time is pretty insignificant. The SIM costs are about a couple of dollars a month per device but we get much more value back in the return on investment through the data and control we get.

     

    Question: Can you please advise a typical cost per point for connection that you are looking at to achieve for the system? Have you done any cost benefit analysis? How do you justify the investment?

    Answer: There's some prices in the market for LPWAN technologies already through Sigfox and LoRA. My personal view, looking at the business cases I need to mount, is that LPWAN connection fees need to be no more than about $5 per end point per year, which is a fairly substantial reduction versus the current cellular costs of about $36.

    Cost benefit analysis is done on a case by case basis and takes into account the risks. For example, with single sewer spill, we could be up for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and insurance and EPI, etc. In addition, we get the benefit of securing our network.

    With the case of the IoT network and the million devices, we will absolutely be giving a robust business case that will have to stand up to scrutiny by government and others. It will be challenged and pulled apart, so for every aspect of this network, the feasibility of it will be really rigorous.

     

     

    Question: Has it been considered that you implement solar panels into the existing networks to maintain the battery charge?”

    Answer: Yes, we're working with a couple of R&D companies because we would like them integrated into covers etc to prevent theft. Nothing really exists off the shelf so we have to do the R&D. The question for us is how much do we spend in terms of design and R&D and potential maintenance of these cells versus putting a rechargeable battery in there and getting out there every couple years to replace it.

     

    Question: Is there a back up to the 3G network applications you had.”

    Answer: We actually run dual SIM, so we use multiple carriers both with private networks, fired back into our main data centres and also our disaster recovery site. If one of the Telcos or the signal is down for whatever reason the system will automatically switch to a completely independent carrier, and the signal will come through that way, so that's how we handle the redundancy.

    It's a good question, because a lot of our critical assets are on that. Some of them we do have fibre too, but largely speaking it's much more efficient and easy for us to put a 4G dual SIM router, and have two independent carriers to do the back up.

     

    Question: Do you foresee any customer behaviour change programmes to help even out water services demand as is done for electricity demand in the electricity industry.

    Answer: That gets talked about very often here but I don't see it happening in the immediate future. At the moment we don’t have time of use and the only way we're really going to get there is to have a digital metering network to get that data. You can change behaviour a bit in terms of how much people are using, but when as to when people are going to have a shower, or use water, some people see it philosophically a little bit different.

    However, if we did that we would get a lot of value. A lot of our assets are over designed. If we could actually reduce demand and have it consistently reduced, we could downsize or defer augmentation. There’s a really big value in it and we're looking at it.

     

    Question: When you mention the reduction in pumping sizes and smoothing out of pumping load, have there been any other initiatives that have been aimed specifically at energy savings?

    Answer: We actually integrate directly with the Australian Energy Market Operator. We've got pool pricing, where we follow the price of the market and we actually shed when the price goes high by turning off operations at treatment plant or run off diesel generators. That actually saves us a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year in electricity.

    We also do a heap of off peak pumping demand forecasting to take pumps out of the peak time. Lots of little initiatives like that.

     

    Question: Has any residential smart water metering been rolled out in the network, and if so which technology?

    Answer: There's been a lot of trials is Australia and it’s a big focus in California. With the drought there’s arguments to say that if we had digital meters we potentially could have deferred Desalination because the efficiencies wouldn’t be that great.

     Around the world others have picked a technology and run with it, so they're largely AMR or AMI based systems using proprietary technology. We want IOT technology with open standards and that is only starting to happen now. There has been some announcements based on LoRA and also around SigFox which is in the proprietary bucket but with a big ecosystem.

    The Victorian Authority has done trials with different tech, and now I guess we're all looking for one that's going to stand up to a robust business case and deliver the customer value.

     

    Question: How does this of subscription system for Telecom assets works.

    Answer: For the current cellular system we use for M2M, that's a monthly fee based on the amount of data. I think there will be a similar process for the low power wide area networks. I think they will still have a tiered system where if you go over certain bytes or kilobytes you transfer into a different system, but largely speaking I expect that to be a fixed fee per year to get the data delivered to your door.

     

    Question: Do any of the Australian mobile carriers support LORAWAN network?

    Answer: No, not to my knowledge, but there’s quite a few emerging companies that are going to become telecommunication providers for LORAWan, so in their own rights there will be Telcos providing an IoT network.

     

    Question: Do you have any issues with penetration of water into the devices?

    Answer: It's a huge issue that we identified very early on. So we use IP 68 ratings, actually certifying to that and are potting electronics. That’s pretty much a standard now for any battery device we put out in the field.

     

    Question: This technology seems like it can be used in conjunction with Telstra Air. Would it be possible for Telstra to upgrade the SIM cards and allow them to also meet hotspots at Telstra Air network?”

    Answer:  Yes, that’s effectively what it is. In the case of NarrowBand IoT the Telcos will literally be reusing the same towers. In a lot of cases it'll be a software upgrade to their cell tower and they’ll automatically be enabled for NarrowBand IoT. It will be a very minimal change for the Telcos and because it's licenced, the Telstra Air stuff is obviously Wi-Fi, this is a NarrowBand technology will work for the little devices sending small bytes of data, but yeah it's going to be an easy upgrade process for the Telcos.

     

    Edited by Tim Kannegieter



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